Boudoir Henna for Body Positivity
“Hi - I’m going on a girls trip to Jamaica next weekend, and I’m wondering if it’s possible to come and get henna to cover my…”
I cannot tell you how many phone calls and emails I receive that start off just like this. Women of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds reach out regularly to ask if I would be comfortable with creating designs to cover or correct those self-described flaws so that they can exist in the world with a bit less inhibition and fear of judgment.
I must admit that offering the service has felt like a double edged sword at times.
Oftentimes, based on the inquiry that I receive, I am left with the impression that once at the appointment, I will be challenged to create artwork to detract from a flaw so severe that I’ll have to use every optical illusion trick up my sleeve.
…and then my clients arrive, shimmy down their waistband, remove their top, or lift their dress, and I’m left wondering: What flaw am I even addressing here? As a third party, I see nothing more than a beautiful body that’s been shaped by its life experiences, and rarely is that “horrible flaw” anything that I can even properly identify without prompting.
This is where it gets tricky. You see, I love serving women. Honestly, there are few greater joys than using my hands to craft something that makes another woman feel beautiful - something that uplifts her, excites her, and causes her to walk away with her head raised a little bit higher. And at the same time… I’ve sometimes wondered if by using my skills to cover the imperfect, I’ve also inadvertently fed into the insecurity that there was something worth covering to begin with.
In order to reframe the concept from concealment to celebration, years ago I began offering boudoir henna services. In these sessions, my clients have the option to focus on the areas that make them want to double take in the mirror (“Heyyyyy legs!”) or those areas that make them feel self-conscious (“I have this scar from my c-section, and I just want to feel comfortable about it for once.”). Instead of approaching the session as a cover up, we come to agree that using henna, I will create something that makes them realize that there is nothing but beauty to be seen in the first place.
And guess what? The shift in perception was a hit!
Today I serve a number of clients with boudoir requests each week - ranging from adorning thighs to tummy tuck incisions, scars to varicose veins. At the end of every session, there’s a sparkle that I look for in my client’s eyes that tells me that she’s feeling totally different from when she arrived, and that’s how I know that I’ve done an excellent job.
You can imagine my excitement when I received an invitation to partner with body-positive boudoir photographer Jill Mills for a private Boudoir Henna Party in Pasadena, MD. The party - which was limited to ten participants for an intimate atmosphere - included vibrant music, an abundance of affirming conversation, light fare, and a mini boudoir photo shoot for each guest.
Before jumping in front of the camera, guests visited with me and together we planned boudoir henna pieces to compliment their bodies, accessorize their curves, and celebrate them for being exactly who they are. The pieces ranged from shoulder wraps to henna pasties, and were the perfect take home gift for guests to enjoy while they awaited the return of their final images.
Guests complimented one another, gasping over how pretty this or that design was, and cheered each other on when it was time to be camera ready. The energy in the room was one of support and affirmation, compassion and celebration, empowerment and self-acceptance. And that my friends? That’s a movement that I can get behind.
Want to take a behind the scenes look at the henna boudoir party? Click here to see more on www.JillianMills.com.